Greek life is one of the many ways that students network and find lifelong friends on campus. The Multicultural Greek Council, or MGC and the National Pan-Hellenic Council, or NPHC, two of the four Greek councils present at MSU, are dedicated to providing a sense of community and a safe haven to underrepresented groups while also giving back to the community.
The NPHC is composed of nine historically African American Greek-letter organizations, with four sororities and five fraternities. Nicknamed the “Divine Nine,” it first emerged in 1930 at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and became a haven and outlet for many Black students, making it a goal to foster brotherhood and sisterhood while also bringing about social change.
The MGC formed in the 1980s and 1990s following the success of the Civil Rights Movement, which led to a newfound strength in minority populations. The emergence of the MGC also correlated with the wave of immigrants that came to the U.S. following the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. It represents primarily Latinx, Asian and multicultural or multiethnic organizations on campus.
All four Greek councils at MSU participate in community service events such as Safe Halloween, but the NPHC and the MGC also host their own unique events that allow their chapters to show off their culture and heritage to the community.
These community events are a big reason why NPHC Executive Board External Vice President and Alpha Phi Alpha member Marcus McDaniel decided to become a member of the Divine Nine.
“I like being involved with other community leaders by being in Greek life,” McDaniel said. “ I felt like that was a perspective that not a lot of people experience, but also it was fun.”
Both McDaniel’s parents were members of the Divine Nine; however, he got his primary inspiration to join from his mom, a member of Delta Sigma Theta. McDaniel said that growing up he saw the bonds his mom had formed with her sorority sisters and how they stayed with her throughout her life. McDaniel said he wanted to form that same kind of connection when he came to college.
Donny Hernandez, former president of Phi Iota Alpha, a historically Latino fraternity, said he first joined the MGC after tapping into the Latino community on campus.
Hernandez recalled attending events hosted by the MGC on campus and becoming close friends with the members of his future fraternity, inspiring him to later join.
He later became president of the fraternity, saying he wanted to be further involved in pursuing the values of the MGC while also doing something to benefit the community.
“I mostly did it just to make sure that I had kind of an impact on the relationships that I was able to create for everybody, not just for myself,” Hernandez said.
MGC Executive-Board President and Sigma Lambda Gamma member Shanel Baxter joined her sorority because representation of all cultures is something that is important to her.
“My organization just really stood out to me because we do have sisters from all different identities and walks of life, even outside of your race and ethnicity,” Baxter said. “It just felt very welcoming. I just knew that’s where I wanted to go. “
It was Baxter’s admiration for the way all the chapters stand for the values they believe in that inspired her to later become president of the MGC.
“On campus, we usually participate in various different walks or organizations that benefit student life and I just think that’s something that’s really important to stand up for,” Baxter said.
Despite the values and various events that NPHC and MGC hold, it is a common consensus among its members that there is a gap in representation and communication between the university and other Greek councils.
Baxter said she believes the MGC has smaller representation on campus due to the smaller number of members it holds, making it harder for the university to listen to them. She said this came to light when it came to securing a multicultural center on campus, in which a site was approved this spring. Baxter said securing the site was something that required a lot of effort from the MGC to advocate for.
“It’s hard to constantly advocate on your own and not be seen or heard by the university,” she said.
The gap between the other Greek councils on campus is inevitable, McDaniel said.
“As representatives of minorities and marginalized communities within MSU as well as within fraternity life, there is always going to be (that divide) because of the fact that we are the minority and marginalized communities,” McDaniel said. “It’s not anybody’s fault, but it’s just a matter of fact that when you represent minority and marginalized communities, it’s just a part of America’s class system right now.”
McDaniel said that in order to bridge this gap, the four councils have been trying to work together to organize community service and other social events that would involve all the councils.
Hernandez also believes more collaboration would help bridge the gap and he hopes to see the four councils work together more often in the coming years.
“I know it’s a work in progress, I don’t think it’s gonna be anytime soon.” Hernandez said. “But hopefully there’s more recognition and more collaborations between all the councils.”
Baxter noted that the other councils besides MGC and NPHC are making an effort as well.
“I think that a lot of people are making efforts towards learning more about diversity, equity and inclusion but I think that these things still need to be touched on and knowledge further evolved,” Baxter said. “The knowledge of other organizations, like the disconnect, is being raised overall.”
Because the MGC and NPHC are value-based organizations, they stray from typical Greek life portrayals in the media that include hazing and heavy alcohol consumption.
Both councils are pillars of the community and newcomers shouldn’t be afraid to join, as the stereotype does not pertain to them, McDaniel said.
McDaniels said that although people tend to think of fraternity houses as a party place, for most people it is a home – a place where they can leave a legacy and have a place to visit when they come back to MSU.
The organizations focus on creating events to help students, such as study table sessions, vision boards, de-stressors and volunteering opportunities, Hernandez said.
“We mostly try to focus on creating an environment for everybody,” Hernandez said.